Officer speaks to jurors in excessive force case

January 25, 2013 12:15:29 AM PST
After 7 years of investigations and interviews, a jury heard from the officers accused of using too much force on a suspect who prosecutors say was cooperating.

At the time of these allegations, Chris Coleman had been a Fresno police officer for 12 years.

He says he enjoyed his job, but wasted no time pointing out areas that he struggled with during his law enforcement career. During his testimony, Coleman got emotional several times.

The officer accused of the most serious crimes took the stand late Thursday to tell his side of what happened in October of 2005. Almost immediately, Chris Coleman broke down in tears. Once he gained his composure, Coleman shared his family's law enforcement history.

His father worked for decades as an officer and discouraged him from the profession because he said, "It's hard on your family."

Coleman decided to anyway since he says he loved serving the community. Coleman said his niche became tracking down wanted gang members. He always struggled in one area, and even got suspended for his report writing.

"Obviously the report writing is the reason why we're here. Organization, time management, that kind of stuff," Coleman said as he described his downfalls.

Coleman's attorney says his client has waited for seven years for this moment.

Coleman was anxious to explain how he perceived the situation when he was accused of using his car, then a bean bag gun to get a domestic violence suspect in custody.

Coleman's Attorney Paul Goyette said he was the guy who was there. He had all the information, he was in the best position to see everything and he wants to tell his story.

Earlier in the day, the officer who analyzed the scene and tire tracks from Coleman's police car was called to testify.

Brian Hance said he estimates Coleman was traveling between 15 to 19 miles an hour when prosecutors alleged he spun out in the parking lot, covering the suspect, Rolando Celdon in dirt.

During Coleman's testimony jurors took more notes than they have been and Coleman addressed them directly. He told the court he was friends with mike Manfredi, Paul Van Dalen and Sean Plymale, but chose to work the midnight shift only because it was best for him and his family.

Goyette insists Coleman did nothing wrong the night Celdon was arrested.

"In many ways the officers showed restraint, and a minimal amount of force and the call went exactly as it is supposed to," Goyette said.

Coleman just started talking about the incident in October when court ended today; he will take the stand again in the morning.


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